Hellenion Clergy Education Program Student Handbook
2003 Edition

Table of Contents

  1. About this Handbook
  2. Goal and Scope of the Clergy Education Program
  3. Summary of the Role of Theoroi (Ordained Clergy) in Hellenion
  4. Prerequisites for the Clergy Education Program
  5. Overview of the Study and Ordination Process
  6. Checklist for Clergy Candidates: What to Do
  7. Clergy Study Flow Chart (illustration)
  8. How to Obtain an Application
  9. The Curriculum: Academic Study
  10. Study Materials (Required Books, etc.)
  11. Documenting Your Work: The Portfolio
  12. Evaluation Procedure: The Writing Rubric
  13. Alternative Documentation for Ritual Practicum
  14. Procedure for Recommendations in Lieu of Demos Endorsement
  15. Arbitration in Case of Dispute
  16. Evaluating Written Sources
  17. Study Skills and Research Procedures
  18. Appendix: Spiritual Literacy: Basic Terms for Clergy (Optional Vocabulary List)

About this Handbook

This handbook is meant to help you toward ordination by outlining the requirements of the Clergy Education Program and giving you some helpful hints to make the process easier. In addition, this handbook stands as the official version of the requirements and policies that will apply to you throughout your term of study, even if those requirements are changed for students entering the program later. Please keep a copy of this handbook in a safe place, as you will need to refer to it often.

Goal and Scope of the Clergy Education Program

The goal of the Clergy Education Program is to provide Hellenion with a body of trained Theoroi (legal clergy) who have the necessary knowledge and skills to fulfill their roles within our organization. Those roles are summarized in a clergy "job description" approved by the Prutaneis in October, 2001.

Summary of the Role of Theoroi (Ordained Clergy) in Hellenion

Hellenion clergy are required to:

They are permitted to:

They are not permitted to:

*Any Hellenion clergy who are also professional therapists are asked to keep these two functions separate, not accepting as therapy clients those to whom they give religious counseling and vice versa. Theoroi who also hold clergy credentials from another ordaining body may provide whatever forms of counseling are allowed under the auspices of that body, but should restrict their counseling work within Hellenion to matters of religious practice.

The Clergy Education Program is designed to give clergy candidates the experience and knowledge to allow them to exercise all of the required and most of the permitted functions within Hellenion. A few of the permitted functions, such as teaching and counseling, may require additional experience and education, which it is beyond Hellenion's means to provide.

Prerequisites for the Clergy Education Program

These items must be fulfilled before the candidate may apply for and be accepted into the clergy education program.

  1. The applicant must have a high school diploma, or equivalent.
  2. The applicant must have completed Hellenion's Basic Adult Education course, or equivalent.
  3. The applicant must have been a member of Hellenion in good standing for a minimum of 12 months prior to application and must remain a member in good standing throughout the study period.
  4. The candidate must be 21 years of age or older in order to be ordained, although study may begin earlier.

Overview of the Study and Ordination Process

There are three steps toward ordination: academic study, Demos endorsement, and Prutaneis approval.

(1) Academic Study

Candidates are required to complete a course of study covering the topics necessary for them to function effectively as Theoroi within Hellenion. An additional unit, which is optional, allows candidates with specialized interests to demonstrate their knowledge of those fields.

(2) Demos Endorsement

Since it is the local community that has the most direct experience with the candidate, it is that community that is charged with evaluating the candidate's vocation (personal commitment to a patron or matron deity) and to Hellenismos generally. The Demos may, at its discretion, perform or witness a ritual in which the candidate takes formal vows to his or her patron/matron deity.

Demos endorsement must be documented as follows:

The members of the local Demos provide a signed statement of their endorsement of the candidate, as well as a written evaluation of the candidate's preparedness to undertake clergy work in Hellenion. If the candidate is unable to participate in his/her local congregation, or no such congregation exists, s/he must provide confidential letters of recommendation from no less than two people outside of Hellenion who are familiar with the candidate's character and who can speak to his or her preparedness to undertake clergy work. These people must be willing to be contacted by members of the board or the clergy training committee and to discuss the candidate frankly. The candidate must also make arrangements to perform and document the required practicum of six rituals, at least three of which must be public.

(3) Prutaneis Approval

When the board members have received all the necessary documentation of the candidate's work, they will vote on whether to confer the title of Theoros (Hellenion clergy) on the candidate. If the board votes against conferring the title, it must provide the candidate with a clear written explanation of the reasons for this decision and the opportunity to make up any lacks. It should be understood that the board bases its decision not on any subjective assessment of the candidate as a person, but on the successful completion of all the requirements.

Upon conferral of the title Theoros, the candidate will be issued a certificate confirming legal ordination. At this time, the new clergyperson may refer to him- or herself, and sign legal documents (marriage licenses, etc.), with the following form: "Jane Doe, Theoros of Hellenion." Should a clergyperson cease to be a member in good standing of Hellenion, her or his legal clergy credentials from Hellenion immediately become null and void.

Checklist for Clergy Candidates: What to Do

This information is summarized in visual form in the Clergy Study Flow Chart below.

The clergy study program is offered free of charge to members of Hellenion, but candidates are responsible for securing the required textbooks and articles, paying any postage and Internet connection fees, and any other incidental expenses.

  1. Send completed application to the Clergy Education Director. If you accepted for the program, you will be informed by e-mail (or post, as applicable).
  2. Complete the Study Topics. Your work should be collected into a portfolio for evaluation. The Director of Clergy Education is available to help you with questions regarding the curriculum, book suggestions, etc. It is strongly recommended that you check in on a regular basis (at least quarterly) and submit drafts of your work for preliminary evaluation.
  3. Participate in your local Demos. You are required to perform six rituals (types specified in the Study Topics) during the course of your study, a minimum of three of which must be public. These can be performed within the context of the Demos, but other publicly performed rituals may also be acceptable. Please keep copies of the scripts for these rituals (or write descriptions of them) and place them in your portfolio.
  4. Gain the endorsement of your Demos. Since it is the Demos that will have firsthand experience with the candidate, it is the Demos that determines whether the candidate has the necessary ritual skills and personal qualities to serve Hellenion as clergy. The Demos leadership must submit a written evaluation of the candidate containing its recommendation that the individual be ordained. If no Demos is available, and you are unable to found one yourself, you must provide alternative documentation of your ritual skills and letters of recommendation. See "Alternative Documentation Procedures."
  5. Submit your completed portfolio to the Director of Clergy Education for evaluation. If your material proves complete and acceptable, the Prutaneis will vote on whether or not to approve your ordination. Upon a favorable vote, you will be issued a certificate of ordination. An ordination ritual or witnessing of vows may take place within your Demos at the discretion of the Demos.

Clergy Study Flow Chart

How to Obtain an Application

Interested members of Hellenion may obtain an application by sending a self-addressed, stamped envelope to: .

The application may also be downloaded from Hellenion's Web site.

The Curriculum: Academic Study


The Clergy Study program is divided into seven required topics, plus one additional section, which is optional. The program may be completed in as little as one year, but as we expect that most candidates will also be working or in school, a more usual time frame is two years.

Ideally, candidates should be associated with a Demos in order to complete the required practicum of six rituals. If no Demos exists in the area, the candidate should make a good faith effort to found one; there is no better training for leadership than this type of grassroots work. If neither of these options proves possible, the candidate may use alternative means to document completion of the practicum (see below). If you intend to use the alternative documentation method, please contact the Director of Clergy Education in advance to discuss the necessary steps.

Candidates may wish to read the section on Demos endorsement in Hellenion's Demos manual, Biblion Demois, which is available online at: http://www.hellenion.org/members/biblionweb.htm.

Candidates are responsible for securing the required books and articles (see below). If possible, these should be purchased, as clergy will need a working library for reference and study. However, if costs prove prohibitive, the texts may be borrowed from a public library or from other members. Some articles are available online or may be purchased at cost from the Director of Clergy Education.

You will be asked to present your completed written assignments as part of a portfolio (see below). This comprises the academic portion of your work toward ordination. In addition, you will need to present proof of having completed the practicum (ritual presentation) and of endorsement by your Demos. It is the responsibility of the candidate to collect and present this material for evaluation in a timely manner. It is strongly suggested that candidates keep in close contact with the Director of Clergy Education during the period of study and submit samples of their written work on a quarterly basis for feedback.

The finished portfolio and any other correspondence should be sent to the following address:

The Study Topics

The study topics include a mix of academic study, reflection, writing, research, and practical activities designed to provide the candidate with the necessary skills and knowledge to fulfill the role of Theoros within Hellenion.

Overview of Topics
  1. Hellenic Religious History and Culture: basic history of Hellenic polytheism in the context of ancient European religions
  2. Hellenic Theology: historical and modern beliefs about the nature of the gods; mythology
  3. Ritual I: Standard Offertory Rites: fundamentals of Hellenic ritual theory and practice
  4. Ritual II: Life Cycle Rites: historical and reconstructed rites of passage
  5. Ritual III: Festivals: historical festivals and modern reconstructions
  6. Ethics: historical models and modern debates
  7. Divination: historical forms and their use in modern counseling and ritual

A checklist of the required texts appears below in the "Study Materials" section.

Topic 1. Hellenic Religious History and Culture

Required Reading: History of Pagan Europe (Jones & Pennick), esp. pp. 5-23; Handbook to Life in Ancient Greece (Adkins & Adkins), pp. 1-38; Greek Religion (Burkert); Athenian Popular Religion (Mikalson); "Priests and Power in Classical Athens" (Garland).

Additional Resources: Old Stones, New Temples (Campbell); Ancient Greece (Martin) or any recent survey of ancient Greek history

Research Project:

Compile a list of the major pagan groups represented in your area; if possible, make contact with the leaders of these groups and introduce yourself and Hellenion to them.

Written Assignments:

(1) Answer the following questions in short essay format:

(a) What is your working definition of "paganism"? Do you describe yourself as "pagan" (or "Pagan")? Why or why not?
(b) If you were asked to describe your religion in 100 words, what would you say? In 25 words? In a single sentence?

(2) Answer the following questions in short essay format:

(a) What do you see as the central concerns of ancient Hellenic religion?
(b) How do you determine where the line between ancient religion and ancient social practice should be drawn when reconstructing our religion?
(c) What values are most important to you when determining which aspects of ancient practice to preserve and which to reject? How do you rank those values? What is your "bottom line" with regard to tradition and innovation? If possible, provide some examples of instances in your rituals, theology, or ethics that demonstrate your personal hierarchy of values.
(d) How do you evaluate UPGs (Unusual or Unsubstantiated Personal Gnosis) and integrate them into modern practice?

Topic 2. Hellenic Theology

Required Reading: Iliad or Odyssey (Homer); Theogony, Works & Days (Hesiod); Homeric Hymns; Handbook to Life in Ancient Greece, chapter 8; any standard handbook of Greek myth (Kerenyi's Gods of the Greeks, etc.)

Additional Resources: Early Greek Myth (Gantz), The Marriage of Cadmus and Harmony (Calasso), Iliad or Odyssey (Homer), Greek Mythology (Graf).

Research Projects:

(1) Draw up an annotated bibliography of books and articles on the deity or deities to whom you intend to dedicate yourself.
(2) Research and write up historical background information on one festival or other religious observances related to your chosen deity (deities).

Written Assignments:

(1) Write an essay explaining your understanding of the nature of our gods and their relationship to humanity. Analyze the traditional views presented in Hesiod and Homer and compare them with your own. In addition to the Olympians, address the positions of heroes, nature divinities, divine "personifications" such as Eirene or Dike, and non- Hellenic deities in your theological worldview.
(2) Compose a devotional rite or a series of hymns to your patron/matron deity.
(3) What advice would you give to a person who believes they are called to worship your patron/matron deity? How could they recognize such a call as authentic? How might they respond to the call?

Topic 3. Ritual I: Standard Offertory Rites

Required Reading: Greek Religion (chapter 2); Old Stones, New Temples

Additional Resources: Simon Pulleyn, Prayer in Greek Religion; Walter Burkert, Homo Necans

Research Projects: Locate as many examples of contemporary Hellenic Reconstructionist offertory rituals as you can. Compare and evaluate them.

Written Assignment:

Complete one of the following:

(1) Write a how-to pamphlet explaining the standard Hellenic ritual form to a newcomer to our religion (or other interested person), or
(2) Create an annotated offertory rite. Annotations should list sources for the various parts of the ritual, the symbolic and/or theological meaning of each part, gestures used at each stage of the ritual, items needed, etc.

Practicum: Perform at least two basic offertory rites as part of your required six rituals.

Topic 4. Ritual II: Life Cycle Rites

Practicum: If you intend to perform life cycle rites as part of your clergy work in Hellenion, you should make every effort to include one such rite as part of your required six rituals.

A. Birth and Childhood

Required Reading: The Greek Way of Life (chapters 1-3); Old Stones, New Temples (chapter 14)

Additional Resource: Children and Childhood in Classical Athens

Research Project:

Create a list of locally available support resources from a family with children who want to learn about our religion. This might include Demos activities, Hellenion curricula, library resources, classes, etc.

Written Assignment:

Write a short essay describing the kinds of support you might offer a family expecting their first child, including instructions for performing one or more childhood rituals (Amphidromia, Dekate, Khoes), advice on selecting a kourotrophic (protective) deity, and suggestions for including the child in the ritual life of the family and community. What support and advice would you offer an interfaith family?

B. Coming-of-Age

Required Reading: The Greek Way of Life (chapter 4); Old Stones, New Temples (chapter 15)

Research Project:

Locate as many examples of Hellenic coming-of-age rites (ancient as well as modern) as you can. Compare and evaluate them.

Written Assignment:

Write a short essay addressing the following questions:

(a) What, in your view, should be the role of coming-of-age rites in our religion today?
(b) Are they necessary? Why or why not?
(c) Is it still appropriate for them to be gender-specific? Why or why not?
(d) In what ways might our modern circumstances change the focus or meaning of coming-of-age rites for our young people and for the community?

C. Marriage

Required Reading: The Greek Way of Life (chapter 5); Old Stones, New Temples (chapter 16)

Research Projects:

(1) What are the requirements in your state for officiating at a wedding? For getting a marriage license? For registering a domestic partnership? Obtain sample copies of the necessary forms and instructions from your local county or city clerk or other government official, and familiarize yourself with them.
(2) In light of your research and in consultation with your Demos, determine whether you wish to officiate at Hellenic wedding rites or other types of commitment ceremonies.

Written Assignment:

Complete one of the two following assignments:

(a) write a modern Hellenic wedding ritual, or
(b) write a pamphlet explaining to families how to perform a traditional, home-based wedding

Created by viator02 on 12/1/2003

D. Funerary Rites

Required Reading: The Greek Way of Death; Old Stones, New Temples (chapter 16)

Additional Resources: "Bo's Cremation" and "How to Be Prepared to Dance" in: The Pagan Book of Living and Dying; Lisa Carlson, Caring for the Dead

Research Projects: (As modified on 12/1/03.)

(1) (required) Research the legalities in your area relating to death, cremation, burial, etc. Are families legally permitted to care for their dead, or must the deceased's remains be handled only by professionals?
(2) (recommended) Visit a funeral home in your area and speak with a funeral director about the legal and practical considerations that bereaved families face. How does the funeral director work with clergy? To what extent would they able to accommodate a Hellenic family that wished to perform traditional kedeia (funerary rites)?

Written Assignment:

Create a pamphlet that you could give to a recently bereaved family (or to other interested parties) explaining Hellenic beliefs about the afterlife and burial customs.

Topic 5. Ritual III: Festivals

Required Reading: Greek Religion (section V); Handbook to Life in Ancient Greece (pp. 348-357); Old Stones, New Temples (part 6)

Additional Resources: Festivals of the Athenians; Religion in the Ancient Greek City; specialized studies on individual Greek poleis

Written Assignments:

(1) Research and reconstruct at least one Greek festival for modern use. Provide a complete ritual script. The festival need not be from Attika or Athens.
(2) Create the following:
(a) a checklist of pre-festival tasks;
(b) a checklist of items necessary to perform a complex festival rite, such as the Anthesteria;
(c) a timeline for festival preparation;
(d) a post-ritual evaluation form.

Practicum: Perform at least three festival rites as part of your required six rituals.

Topic 6. Ethics

Required Reading: Athenian Popular Religion (Mikalson), Solon's Precepts, Maxims of the Sages, "The Role of Theoroi in Hellenion," Hellenion's Clergy Handbook

Additional Reading: Nichomachean Ethics and Magna Moralia (Aristotle), Greek Popular Morality in the Time of Plato and Aristotle (Dover)

Research Project:

Based on your reading, draw up a statement of your personal ethical code. This may be shared with your Demos or with the Clergy Education Director at your discretion.

Written Assignments:

(1) Write an essay explaining the basic concepts of Hellenic ethics as you understand them.
(2) Address from a Hellenic perspective at least two of the following ethical issues: abortion, euthanasia/assisted suicide, capital punishment, animal rights, children's rights, the environment/conservation, homosexuality, economic inequality, race- or ethnicity-based discrimination. Are these religious issues? How does the Hellenic tradition deal with them, if at all? If they are not directly addressed in our tradition, how do you think modern Hellenists should approach them with regard to ethics?

Topic 7: Divination

Required Reading: Handbook to Life in Ancient Greece, pp. 347-348

Additional Reading: Arcana Mundi: Magic and the Occult in the Greek and Roman Worlds (Georg Luck)

Research Projects:

(1) Research at least one of the following traditional methods of divination with reference to ancient Greek usage: dream incubation or interpretation; omens (kledones, etc.); bird flight; reading signs in fire; lots; giving and interpreting oracles.
(2) In light of your research, determine whether or not you wish to perform divination as part of your clergy work in Hellenion.

Written Assignment:

Write up the results of your research into divinatory methods in a short essay. Include an example of how you might apply your chosen divinatory method in counseling, or discuss its role in ritual. If you regularly use modern or non-Hellenic divinatory methods, explain how you integrate them into Hellenic practice. If you do not intend to perform divination as part of your clergy work in Hellenion, explain how your worldview or ethics excludes it.

Optional Specializations

If you are dedicating to a deity with a specific area of influence not covered in the above study topics, or if you have a special interest, you are encouraged to do additional research in that area. If you choose not to pursue a specialized topic, you will not be penalized. However, expertise in one of these areas adds to the store of knowledge within Hellenion and, of course, to your own satisfaction and reputation.

Special Topics:

Other topics will also be considered; please contact the Director of Clergy Education for prior approval.

Reading: Specialized historical studies on the topic in question or other relevant material. Contact the Director of Clergy Education for suggestions, or bring your questions to one of our mailing lists.

Research: Compile an annotated bibliography on the topic. Where applicable, include information on relevance of the topic in question to the worship of your patron/matron deity.

Written Assignment/Practicum: Design a study module on the topic of your choice for Hellenion's Adult Continuing Education program. Your study module may be presented in your Demos, at a pagan festival or conference, as a public class or lecture in your community, or online to Hellenion's membership. You may also submit the results of your research in the form of an essay.

Study Materials

If you discover that a required text has gone out of print, please let the Director of Clergy Education know as soon as possible, so an alternative text may be found.

(1) Required Texts:

(2) Additional Reading Texts (recommended but not required)

(3) General Reference, Academic Protocol, Other Resources

(4) Other Recommendations (titles recommended by members of the Clergy Education Curriculum Development Committee)

General Note: Candidates are encouraged to read as widely as possible in ancient Greek literature. Most texts are available online at Project Gutenberg or the Perseus Project, the latter of which includes the original Greek.

Documenting Your Work: The Portfolio

Style Guides and Dictionaries

Students may choose to use the style guidelines of the Modern Language Association or those of the American Psychological Association for their written work. A summary of these guidelines suitable for use in our program can be found in Joseph F. Trimmer, A Guide to MLA Documentation with an Appendix on APA Style, 5th ed., Boston/New York: Houghton Mifflin, 1999. (ISBN 0-395-93851-1) We strongly recommend that any student who does not already own a current MLA or APA style guide purchase and use Trimmer's book.

The standard dictionary reference for the program is Webster's Collegiate Dictionary, 10th edition. Other collegiate or unabridged dictionaries may be used, but this substitution should be noted in the student's portfolio.

Evaluation of Written Work: The Writing Rubric

To assure the fairest possible evaluation of student work, written assignments will be graded according to the following rubric. For each evaluation category, the work can receive up to four points, for a maximum grade of 20. The minimum passing grade is 15; if an assignment receives a mark of one in any single category, the assignment will automatically receive a failing mark. Failed assignments must be revised and receive a passing mark before the candidate can be considered for ordination.

Criteria   1 2 3 4
Organization   Sequence of information is difficult to follow. Reader has difficulty following work because student jumps around. Student presents information in logical sequence which reader can follow. Information in logical, interesting sequence which reader can follow.
Content Knowledge   Student does not demonstrate grasp of information; student cannot answer questions about subject. Student seems uncomfortable with content but is able to demonstrate basic concepts. Student is at ease with content, but fails to elaborate sufficiently. Student demonstrates necessary knowledge or exceeds knowledge requirement.
Grammar and Spelling   Work has four or more misspellings and/or grammatical errors.

Work has three misspellings and/or grammatical errors.

Work has no more than two misspellings and/or grammatical errors. Work has no misspellings or grammatical errors.
Neatness   Work is illegible. Work has three or four areas that are sloppy. Work has one or two areas that are sloppy. Work is neatly done.
References   Work displays no references for quoted material. (=plagiarism) Work does not have the appropriate references for the topic (insufficient use of basic texts). Reference section was completed incorrectly (wrong or inconsistent form). Work displays the correct number of references, written correctly.


Alternative Documentation for Ritual Practicum

All Hellenion clergy candidates are required to fulfill a practicum of six rituals as part of their preparation for ordination. Normally, candidates will perform these rituals in the context of the local congregation, the Demos. However, some clergy candidates will not have access to a Demos, and may not be able to find enough Hellenes in their local area to form one. Therefore, we allow for alternative means of documenting the required rituals.

Half of the required rituals must be open to the public, and all rituals must be attended by three or more adults (including the candidate), not all of whom live together (i.e., the equivalent of a Hellenion Demos). The participants need not identify as Hellenic polytheists, but they must actively take part in the rituals, not just observe. All of the rituals should be Hellenic in format; rituals from other religious traditions cannot be counted toward fulfillment of this requirement.

In lieu of Demos documentation, candidates shall submit letters from a minimum of two adults certifying that they were present when the candidate performed one or more of the required rituals. Candidates must present letters documenting all the rituals they wish to have counted toward fulfillment of the requirement. For example, if two guests attended all six qualifying rituals, the candidate may present one letter from each. If one guest attended four out of the six, s/he may write a letter stating this; the candidate will then need to present additional letters from other persons documenting the remaining two rituals. It is ideal if at least one letter can be from a member in good standing of Hellenion, but this is not required.

The candidate will be asked to provide postal and telephone contact information for the persons certifying their ritual participation, and those persons should be willing to be contacted by a representative of Hellenion to discuss the candidate's performance. Scripts or detailed descriptions of the rituals should also be included, and candidates are encouraged to provide supplementary documentation, such as video or audio tapes, programs, flyers, etc.

Procedure for Recommendations in Lieu of Demos Endorsement

When a candidate cannot participate in a Demos, he or she may provide two confidential letters of recommendation from other persons in lieu of Demos endorsement. These letters should be from persons familiar with the candidate's spiritual and personal life. They should contain the writer's candid assessment of the candidate's preparedness to serve as clergy and must include the writer's legal name, residential address, and phone number. The writers must be willing to be contacted by representatives of Hellenion to discuss the candidate and to verify the information in their letters. Recommendation letters should be placed in an envelope, the envelope sealed, and the author's legal signature placed across the seal. The letters may then be delivered either to the candidate, to be submitted with his or her portfolio, or mailed directly to the Director of Clergy Education at the following address: .

Arbitration in Case of Dispute

Students who believe that their work has been unfairly evaluated may request that their case be heard by the Prutaneis. The evaluator must present a written explanation of his or her assessment of the student's work; the student must be given the opportunity to respond to this explanation and to make good any lacks identified by the Prutaneis. If the Prutaneis determines that the student's work is sufficient as it stands, they may request that the program guidelines be reevaluated in light of the case.

Evaluating Written Sources

The article below is presented here to help students evaluate potential study material. This article appears with the kind permission of the author.

Scholarly Books and Lookalikes
by Jonobie Ford

A common problem in Neopaganism is that many people seem unclear on what constitutes a credible book. A "credible book" is one that makes believable and accurate statements about a particular field (often history, in Neopagan discussions). Typically, a credible book has the following features:

Recognizing credible books requires that a reader be familiar enough with the subject matter to recognize outrageous claims and have some connection to an academic community that studies the field. People who have this knowledge and connection can usually quickly determine books that are not credible, merely by glancing through them.

The problem is, this "look" is easy to fake by writers outside of the field. Newcomers or dabblers often know very little about the field being studied and aren't connected with any academic community. So a "lookalike" book can be easily produced by starting with a theory that "sounds good" and then writing about it and adding footnotes, references, and a bibliography. These three components give a book the trappings of a scholarly work, but do not, by themselves, mean anything about the book's accuracy.

This becomes a problem when newcomers or dabblers begin discussing a claim from one of these lookalike books. In academically-minded lists and communities, the discussion quickly moves to a comparison of sources, often causing the discussion to become heated. Unfortunately, discussions of these two types of books at a high level (and their ability to support a particular claim) look as if each side is saying the same thing.


The other side isn't magically claiming victory, but it's not worth the time of every enthusiast in the field to explain in detail exactly why every lookalike book that supports a particular flawed theory is really a lookalike book and not a credible book. This is a many-headed hydra, too, because of the high number of lookalike books that repeat information from other lookalike books. And so, the readers of lookalike books may leave, often still convinced that they're right and that people are picking on them. This isn't quickly fixed -- the best we can do is to keep encouraging a culture of scholarship within our community.

An easy litmus test is to decide if a book is possibly credible as an academic source is to check where it's shelved in a bookstore. If it is filed under any of the "New Age" or "Spirituality" categories, chances are that any historical or scientific discussions in the book are seriously flawed. It's not that everything shelved under history or science is credible - one still needs to apply the standards above to check. However, it's usually the case that books in New Age or Spirituality sections are best kept for spiritual inspiration, not factual instruction. In the realms of facts, such books are best used as springboards for finding out what the facts are.

As an analogy, consider a person discussing the truth of the statement "Wiccans worship the Devil." There are several sources of information about Wicca -- Wiccans, scholars writing about Wicca, but who aren't Wiccan themselves, and Chick Tracks. Someone wanting to argue that Wiccans worship the Christian Devil could cite Chick Tracks as support for their belief.

Chick Tracks aren't completely misinformed. For example, they correctly attribute the pentagram as the religious symbol for Wiccans. But using Chick Tracks as a source of information means that unusual claims from that source should be treated with extreme caution, even if supported by other, similar, literature. To be believed, information from Chick Tracks needs to be corroborated with one or more of the other sources (Wiccans, or scholars who study Wiccans). One can possibly use Chick Tracks as a way to learn more about an area ("Chick Tracks say X is true; if I ask the Wiccans and scholars about that, do they agree?"), but they aren't useful for arguing that X is true.

Lookalike books are typically as factually accurate as Chick Tracks are -- it's not that they can't be right, but rather, to determine the accuracy of their statements, the statements have to be evaluated against credible sources. Evaluating them against other lookalike books does no more to bolster the original claim than using one Chick Track statement to support another Chick Track statement.

This is a serious issue. One of the problems with Paganism becoming mainstream is alarming number of people in the community who embrace flawed and sometimes laughable ideas about history or science -- ideas not limited to to the myth of an ancient religion of the Great Goddess. To outsiders and newcomers to our religions, this has the effect of us appearing, at best, to be ignorant. The claim that "Pagans are usually better-read and better-educated than the average person," is a common one in our community. Let's not make a lie of this statement by reading and perpetuating ridiculous notions from poorly researched books. Learning and teaching others to recognize credible books from "lookalike" books is a good first step.

Study Skills and Research Procedures

As Hellenion's Clergy Education Program is a largely self-directed course of study, students need an unusual amount of self-discipline to carry through on the assignments. Strong study skills will make the process much easier. Here are some tips to help you make the most of your time.

Drew's Study Tips

*A specific hint: Read the assigned material for Topic 1, make an outline for your essay, then set it aside. Finish the rest of the program, reread Burkert, and then write up your essay. No doubt your ideas about "the central concerns of Greek religion" will have changed after two years of reading, discussion, and thought.


Spiritual Literacy: Basic Terms for Clergy

This list is for your own use as a self-evaluation tool and is entirely optional; it need not be submitted with your portfolio.

This list is designed to help clergy prepare themselves for their work (1) by becoming familiar with some of the terminology used both in mainstream theology and in alternative spiritual communities and (2) by gaining research practice using reference materials specific to religious studies.

No one can be an expert on every topic, but ideally, clergy should at least have some mental associations with the individuals, movements, and concepts listed here. (What religion or culture is this associated with? What is its religious or spiritual significance?) This is especially important for anyone who hopes to include interfaith dialogue or public teaching as part of their clergy work. The candidate should also be familiar with the Hellenic terms appearing in the glossary of Old Stones, New Temples.

Many of these terms can be found in a standard unabridged dictionary. For some others, you may need to consult a religious encyclopedia or dictionary, do a Web search, or ask your local reference librarian for assistance. Here are a few sources that may prove helpful:

Abraham Aesir ahimsa akashic record alchemy
Allah Anabaptists Anglican Communion animism Anthroposophy
apostolic succession Aramaic ardaynes Ásatrú asceticism
Ashkenazim aspecting astrology athame atheism
aura awen B'nai Noach B.C.E. Bach, Edward
Baha'ism baptism bar/bat mitzvah Beltaine besom
biodynamic farming biofeedback Blavatsky, H.P. blót bolline
bomos Bon Book of Shadows Brahman bris/brith
Buddha Burning Times C.E. Candomble canon law
cantor Cathars Celt centering chakras
channeling chaos theory Charge of the Goddess Chasidism chela
chi circumcision cone of power Conservative Judaism cosmos
coven covenant cowan creation spirituality Crowley, Aleister
Culdees daimon Dalai Lama Dee, John Delphi
deosil dharma Dianetics Dodona dowsing
Druidism duotheism Eddas Eightfold Path Eightfold Year
elements Emperor Julian Enochian system entropy Eostar
Epictetus Epicureanism esbat Essenes eucharist
evocation Faerie familiar feng shui Fortune, Dion
Fox, Matthew Freemasonry frith frum fundamentalism
futhark Gardner, Gerald garter garth gematria
gentile Gimbutas paradigm gnome Gnosticism godhi
Golden Dawn gospel grail grounding guru
gythia Haggadah hajj halakhah hallow
handfasting harrow havdalah Heathen henotheism
hermetic Hesychasm hierophant hieros gamos Hinayana
homeopathy HP/HPs I Ching Iamblichus icon
Ifa imam Imbolc immanence Indo-Europeans
invocation Iolo Morgannwg Jewish Renewal Jung, Carl Gustav justification by faith
Kabbalah karma kashrut kindred kippah
klippot Kotel kundalini latifah Law of Return
Law of Threefold Return left-hand path liberation theology lingham Litha
Lughnassadh Mabinogion Mabon Magen David magic(k)
Mahabharata Mahayana mana Mani mantis
mantra Marcus Aurelius matriarchy mezuzah miasma
Michael mikvah mitzvot Mizraim Mohammed
monism monotheism Moses moshiach mudras
mysticism mythos Nam-myoho-renge-kyo Nanak Nation of Islam
naturopathy NDE Neo-Paganism New Age Nichiren Daishonin
NLP numen numerology occult ogham
oracle Orishas Orphism Orthodox Judaism Osho
Pagan Pali pantheism Passover pastor
patriarchy pendulum pentacle pentagram Pentecost
Plato Plotinus polarity polytheism priest
puja Qur'an rabbi Rastafarians rebbe
Reconstructionist Judaism Reform Judaism right-hand path rite of passage Rosh Hashanah
Rosicrucianism runes sabbat sacrament sacrifice
salamander Samhain sangha Sanskrit Santería
santero/a Satanism Scientology scourge seelie
seidhr Sephardim sephirot Seth shabbat
shamanism shema Shi'i Shinto siddur
sigil Sikhism skyclad Smith, Joseph smudge stick
Socrates Sokka Gakkai Solon songlines spell
spiritualism stang stead Steiner, Rudolf Stoicism
Sufism sumbel Summerlands Sun Dance Sunna
sutra sweat lodge sylph syncretism taboo
Tain Bo Cuailnge Taliesin tallis/tallit Talmud Tanakh
Tantra Tao Tarot tattwas tefillin
temenos tetragrammaton thaumaturgy Theban alphabet Theosophy
theurgy tikkum olam Torah transcendence transsubstantiation
trickster trinity troth undine Unitarian Universalism
unseelie Valhalla Valiente, Doreen Vanir Veda
veneration Vestal Virgins vision quest völva votive offering
Voudoun Waldorf education warlock watchtowers Wiccan Rede
widdershins yarmulke Yggdrasil yin-yang yoga
Yom Kippur yoni Yoruba Yule Zen
zodiac Zohar